Smokey Merkley

One of the biggest mistakes I made growing up was to not take a couple of my paychecks and buy a .270 Winchester rifle for hunting deer, elk and moose.

Many of my friends had purchased .270 Winchesters, and I thought they were excellent rifles, but I had hunted with a friend of my father who owned a .300 Weatherby Magnum and I had decided that was the next rifle caliber I wanted.

Before I could get back to thinking about a .270, I left home for a couple of years, went back to college, got married, welcomed a baby girl to the family, started graduate school at Kansas State University where we welcomed our second daughter, and joined the faculty of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M University.

The plan to get a .270 Winchester just fell by the wayside, and I never did get one. I should have exercised my usual persistence to purchase a .270 instead of thinking Texas didn’t have enough public land to hunt on to justify the purchase of another high-powered rifle.

After I was able to buy my father’s Remington, Model 721, in .30-06 I felt that I really didn’t need both a .30-06 and a .270 Winchester. That was probably another mistake.

Winchester introduced the .270 Winchester to the public in 1925. At first, the .270 Winchester didn’t seem to be of much interest to the hunting community, until Col. Townsend Whelen and Jack O’Conner, two popular gun writers of the 1920s through the 1950s, started hunting deer, pronghorn, elk, moose and Dall sheep with the caliber and wrote about its hard-hitting performance, flat trajectory, ease of reloading several bullet weights and accuracy out to 500 yards. Once Whelen and O’Conner started singing the praises of the .270 Winchester, sales increased and American hunters had another favorite all-around caliber to go along with the .30-06 Springfield. Another virtue of the .270 Winchester is that at 17.6 foot-pounds, it doesn’t recoil as hard as the .30-06.

Hosea Sarber, a hunting guide and Fish and Game warden out of Petersburg, Alaska, usually carried a .375 H&H Magnum when guiding Alaskan brown bear hunts, but he normally carried a .270 Winchester while on patrol for Fish and Game or when he was assigned to terminate problem bears. He disappeared while on patrol, and it is generally thought that he was bushwhacked by fishermen poaching in closed spawning waters, but the big bore enthusiasts would like to think he met up with a cantankerous brownie and the .270 Winchester wasn’t enough gun to stop the bear.

With bullet weights from 130 to 150 grains and muzzle velocity from 3,060 to 3,200 feet per second, along with muzzle energy at 2,702 and 2,995 foot-pounds for commercial 130-grain loads, the .270 has plenty of power at ranges out to 500 yards. The 150-grain commercial loads deliver muzzle velocity of about 3,000 feet per second and 2,998 foot-pounds of energy.

It is definitely enough gun to use on any of the bears or larger ungulates out to 300 yards and has taken elk, moose, pronghorn and deer at ranges of 500 yards or a little more, by good marksmen.

The .270 Winchester is not the ideal caliber for every hunting situation; there is no caliber that is ideal for every situation. However, because of the wide variety of game the .270 Winchester can adequately handle at reasonably longer ranges out to 500 yards, its flat trajectory, accuracy and tolerable recoil, it has won the hearts of many hunters who can place their bullets accurately and don’t believe they need a hard-recoiling big bore for any game animal in North America.

If you doubt the .270 Winchester’s popularity, just try and talk someone who owns one out of it.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at